Social engineer? vigilante psycho? A man wrapped in vengeance motivated by his own selfish ways? Who is Aiden Pearce and what drives his intentions? The Art of Watch_Dogs is a book well worth anybody’s time who found themselves genuinely immersed within the fictional city of Chicago, and hacking their way through every crime and disturbance they found themselves going through.
Containing both passion, time consumption, along with hard work and talent, the Art of Watch_Dogs is remarkable and stunning. But that isn’t to say it doesn’t have it’s weaknesses in relation to the actual game. Much like the original tech demo that Ubisoft portrayed as in-game footage back at E3 2012, The Art of Watch_Dogs exceeds the final product, in delivering more content that what you actually experience within the game.
With that being said this can be seen as both a negative and a positive. With forewords by Art Directors Mathieu Leduc and Sidione Weber we’re given an introduction to the influences and inspirations that the studio took from the city of Chicago, and the replication that they sought out to provide the gamers.
Divided into 4 chapters of what the game entails. The book takes us on a tour of it’s characters, it’s city, the Underground movements and digital culture, and the “Everything is Connected” entity that drives Aiden’s power, as well as the underlying and disturbing message that raises questions of security and privatization within our own world.
"With forewords by Art Directors Mathieu Leduc and Sidione Weber we're given an introduction to the influences and inspirations that the studio took from the city of Chicago, and the replication that they sought out to provide the gamers."
While Aiden Pearce falls flat as a main protagonist and is merely a vehicle for criminal destruction that brings out our own personal desires, should we be granted the power of connection that he holds within his palms.
The book attempts to build up an ark and reasoning for the character’s goals within the game. Much like the actual game however, the minimal description the pages provide through text, fall flat on it’s face. The illustrations on the other hand standout as both marvelous and influential. While the concept art and three-dimensional models for Aiden’s animations and attitude are second to known.
There’s a real lack of background information given on who Aiden actually is, and if there’s more to him than simply shutting down radio communications and turning off traffic lights. This is a real shame as it treats the supporting cast in much the same way. Going into the book with the hopes of stumbling upon an origin story as well as eye-candy to keep my cornea and retina busy.
Sad to say I was only greeted by one. Much of the written information provided by the book isn’t actually worth reading as it is to simply flick your eyes through, and while some may say “Well, it’s called the ART of Watch_Dogs”.
The character concept ART, and the stages of character development are one of the same. Therefore the reasoning and justification for why the game’s main character is who he is, and does what he does, requires supporting information alongside it’s designs.
The illustrations that the book does provide however, are fairly reminiscent of what you see in the game. If there’s one thing Aiden has, it’s style. The various looks that the artists played with such as the classic 1940s Mobster persona, and the gritty balaclava-masked gangster, that portrays a desperate yet dangerous man fleeing with an Uzi, deliver a real sense of drama and a dark criminal tone.
The illustrative progression and development that leads into the final look of Aiden’s urban vigilante meets digital threat, is superb within it’s concept. While not as in-depth as the game’s main character, we’re also treated to a few illustrations of DedSec, Jordi, T-Bone, Poppy, and the rest of the supporting cast present within the game.
"The various looks that the artists played with such as the classic 1940s Mobster persona, and the gritty balaclava-masked gangster, that portrays a desperate yet dangerous man fleeing with an Uzi, deliver a real sense of drama and a dark criminal tone. "
While these pages are smaller and more sectioned with nothing but the basics of who they are within the game, much similar to the WatchDogs Character Trailer, taking the role of visual support, hacker in crime, and Aiden’s eyes and ears.
Much like I did in the game, I find the character of Clara Lille to be a much more interesting and built up character as opposed to Aiden, and the book further encourages this as it provides a far more interesting and insightful look as to who Clara actually is.
Described as “Alluring and disturbing” by lead story designer Kevin Scott, Clara’s personality and attitude that we witness in the game is highly reflective within the concept illustrations and development ideas, that led up to her final design.
The exploration of tattoos, haircuts, and body poses that visually describe and express Clara’s personality vastly outshines the earlier pages of what you’re given with Aiden. Clara’s fashion sense and involvement within the digital urban culture of those who rebel against ctOS is highly reflective in her design.
In comparison to Aiden’s creepy yet casual weirdness it would have been great to find out more about her background. Frankly I would have loved to seen more of an input of Clara’s back story and origin within the game, and if there’s even a possibility for a sequel, or even a prequel I would like to see Clara take center stage. The underground digital tone that flows throughout the game’s entire aesthetic of it’s menus and gameplay make their way through every page of the book.
The pages themselves are designed in such a way, that it’s not just a gallery of artwork for the content in the game. But more so it’s a looking glass into the theme and ideas, that fueled the artists in the work they were creating. It’s flowing with energy and you can almost feel the passion and hard work that the artists were creating at the time.
“At the beginning of the project we explored a more high tech metropolis, more permeated with technology,” as said By Sidione Weber. The concept that the team was originally going for in creating a more futuristic look on the city of Chicago was largely dumbed down to what we experience in the game, and I can happily say that this was done for the best.
"The exploration of tattoos, haircuts, and body poses that visually describe and express Clara's personality vastly outshines the earlier pages of what you're given with Aiden. Clara's fashion sense and involvement within the digital urban culture of those who rebel against ctOS is highly reflective in her design."
As the book explains the different ideas and routes that the team took in creating an environment that’s not so different from our own but is still set far enough into the future, that the “Everything is Connected” message that the game pushes so hard upon, still seams plausible.
The design choices and reflective landmarks of the real-life Chicago that the game utilizes for an enjoyable experience, is ever present throughout the concept art that the book contains, as Ubisoft has mentioned countless times over the past two years.
Chicago was chosen for Watch_Dogs as it is one of the most surveilled cities on the planet. Using a combination of screenshots and concept art along with text, these pages of the book provide a more in-depth explanation as to how Aiden uses the technological abilities of his phone, to manipulate the city to his advantage.
Traffic lights, ATMs, bridges, smartphones, vehicles, and street cameras. Nothing is out of reach for the player. With various concepts for each of these objects, the infrastructure of ctOS is given both illustrations and information as to how they are all connected.
One thing that’s of even more interest to this infrastructure of everything always being connected, is the backlash and counter-act, of those who disagree. DedSec. The street art posters covered in graffiti and satire, that was once a proving point for the benefits of what ctOS can deliver for the public, are taken into full account in making the fictional world of Chicago feel more alive. Covering everything we get to experience within the game in an illustrative manner, and more so that didn’t make it.
"The street art posters covered in graffiti and satire, that was once a proving point for the benefits of what ctOS can deliver for the public, are taken into full account in making the fictional world of Chicago feel more alive."
The Art of Watch_Dogs delivers a satisfying insight into the game’s character’s, living city, and the personality and expressions of how the character’s react to the idea of ctOS and who it is, as an actual character within itself.
Much like the game it’s the side characters and the technological advantages of a computerized city that are what make the book worth while, though taken through illustrative means.
Just like the game however, the book also fails to deliver an understanding, and justification for why Aiden is actually important, as it doesn’t provide enough information on who he is, other than illustrative concepts of face masks and trench coats. Everything is Connected, its just a shame Aiden is offline.